Teaching African Hairstyles
edited: Tuesday, December 09, 2003
By Nicole Lasher
Posted: Tuesday, October 21, 2003
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Encouragement for braid artists and loctitians to pass along the skills.
When I first created the course on African hairstyles on Universal Class, I had no idea of the positive response I'd receive. Cornrowing is a skill that is very common in my family and my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. I grew up watching friends and relatives and their kids sitting on pillows between the knees of their moms, grandmas, or aunts for their weekly or monthly do.
I remember the general excitement in the community when inexpensive bulk hair for braiding started being available in the beauty supply. I remember the even greater excitement when human hair wefts became available on the shelves. For some time in the 1980's almost every Black woman I saw had crimps in the front or a weave or long braids reminiscent of ancient Egyptian paintings.
I'm told that the trend took off when some Zimbabwean hair artists arrived in New York and Los Angeles with their stunning works of hair artistry, and some celebrities saw it. Now it's the standard.
As an obvious proponent of natural and harm-free hair styling, I couldn't be more thrilled that this set of formerly culture specific styles has snowballed into a worldwide hair revolution. The question for me, before making a course about it was, "Would people pay to learn this?"
I suppose the answer is yes they would. I'm not greedy enough to make them pay much though. In my case, the course has a low overhead because of the gracious hosts of Universal Class, so I pass the savings on to my students.
I would like to see more people who have this skill, though, teaching courses offline at community centers. Cornrows are such a nice style, and very convenient for people such as the elderly with arthritis. If more hospital staff and volunteers knew how to cornrow, it would help the elderly just as it helps anyone else to look nice. The hair also wouldn't have to be combed every day, so it is less stress for those who have sensitive scalps, or who have long hair that gets tangled.
There is another reason...As families are less cohesive than they used to be on average, some of these skills are getting lost or becoming the exclusive domain of salons. To braid someone's hair is an intimate experience much like the body painting that some tribal peoples still do for each other every day. To touch someone and care for them helps them to feel loved and valued. People need to feel more loved and valued today.
...and while we're on the subject, chemotherapy patients who are losing their hair don't all like the same hairstyle. Why not volunteer to braid and cornrow their wigs and hair pieces?
So if you are out there and know how to cornrow, pass it on. As I've learned myself, what's common to you could be extraordinary for someone else.